(AP) — For much of the last two months, President Donald Trump has rarely left the grounds of the White House as he’s dealt with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and sought to minimize his own exposure to the disease.
But that changed Tuesday: Trump revved up Air Force One and headed to Arizona to visit a Honeywell facility that makes N95 masks in what the president suggests will mark the return to more regular travel.
The trip also means a small army of advisers, logistical experts and security staff — a coterie of hundreds that includes personnel from the White House, Defense Department, Secret Service and more — will resume regularly hitting the road again and taking a measure of risk to assist Trump.
The president told reporters shortly before departing Tuesday that he had no concerns that resuming travel could expose those in his entourage to increased risk.
“Everybody traveling has been tested,” Trump said of his aides. “We have great testing and literally they’ve been tested over the last hour, and the test result comes back in five minutes.”
At a moment when public health officials have asked Americans to postpone nonessential travel to help stem the coronavirus, Trump was eager to prod a shell-shocked American electorate — reeling from the death and economic destruction wrought by the virus — to edge back to normal life.
James McCann, a Purdue University political scientist who has studied presidential travel, said Trump early in his term traveled significantly less frequently on official presidential business compared to his four predecessors. But now that a big campaign rally is not possible, Trump is searching for a way to assert himself.
“Trump is itching to get into campaign mode,” McCann said.